Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Some days you just have to take a chance. 

Last Thursday, when snow in the city cancelled our ski bus (oh the irony, a ski bus cancelled because of snow!) my friend Glen and I decided to brave the icy roads and drive up anyway.

Mt Hood reflected in the lodge window

This was our reward.  Blue skies and a huge dump of light, fluffy powder snow.  The best day of the season so far.  So glad I decided to gamble with the white knuckle drive. 

Of course, the following weekend I wasn't so lucky.  My friends and I drove all the way to Mt Bachelor for the weekend, only to be greeted with a howling blizzard Saturday morning.  Nothing was running but the beginner lifts, and visibility was nil.  No skiing for us.

But of course, you don't know if you don't go.  All you can do is roll the dice.  Sometimes you lose, but once and awhile you get lucky and hit a bluebird day.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Quick Trip up Kings Mtn

You're about to see moss.  Lots of it.

Obligatory trailhead sign

After patiently waiting the entire month of January for an expected huge dump of mountain snow, the weather gods decided to bring rain instead (they have a twisted sense of humor).  Not a fan of skiing in liquid sunshine, I opted to stay home and mope around the house all morning.  Then, becoming desperate for an outdoor exercise fix, I decided to take a quick hike up nearby Kings Mountain. 

Entering the forest

While searching for a hike closer to home, I'd discovered this lovely trail in the Oregon Coast Range last June.  A mere 45 minute drive had me pulling into its parking area.  Although challenging, this steep, thigh-burning ascent of 2800 vertical feet in 2.7 miles was short enough to fit into an afternoon.

Photogenic mossy trees

So instead of skiing, that's how I found myself trekking through a damp, mossy winter forest.  But from my first step onto Kings Mountain's spongy tread, I was captivated by it's magical green woods.

Loved these fuzzy branches

Devoid of leaves, the mossy tree trunks and branches stood out.  Huge clumps of ferns covered the forest floor.  Everything glowed in bright hues of green.  Absolutely magical!  (I half expected a hobbit to amble out)

Yup, more moss

Of course, I had to capture these wonderful fairy-tale woods.  And I spent the next half hour doing just that.

Mossy old tree stump

Of course my frantic photo session killed any forward progress.  After many dozen shutter clicks, I realized time had got away from me once again.  If I didn't get a move on soon, I'd be hiking back in the dark.

Summit register

So, I put my head down and began the slow uphill trudge.  Kings Mountain trail is a steep one, and it didn't take long before my heart started hammering and breath began huffing and puffing.  Soon, the day's fine cloudy mist transformed into raindrops, necessitating a stop to don pack cover and stash the camera.

Nothing to see here

The remainder of my climb was uneventful, save for the fact that the top of Kings Mountain took forever to reach.  The last couple hundred feet of climbing necessitated wading through icy snowbanks.  No rewarding views for my effort today - I found the summit cloaked in thick, foggy clouds.  A cold wind blew chilly raindrops into my face.  I stayed long enough to eat a quick snack while huddling under dripping branches.

Dense forest

Then I gladly retraced my steps off the summit into the shelter of the forest.  Luckily I hadn't traveled very far when the rain finally let up. 

More forest shots

This break in precip gave me a chance to retrieve my camera and capture some images of the diverse forest zones encountered as I descended Kings Mountain.

Last of the fall leaves

This trail is well-maintained by the Mazamas, a Portland mountain climbing club.  They even provide elevation signs every 500 feet so you can judge your downward progress.

Nearing the bottom

Below about 1000 feet, thick moss reappeared on trees and my camera was once again occupied.  Although this significantly delayed my return trip, I did still arrive back at my car well before dark.  And I'd managed to capture quite a few nice images, albeit mostly of the lovely mossy trees (a happy photographer is one with a full memory card!)

Moss macro     

Although skiing was foiled by weather, I still ended up having a great outdoor adventure.  Not only that, I discovered another local trail that's just as beautiful in the winter.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Bus is Back!

One of my favorite winter activities is riding the midweek ski bus.  Not only do I love the empty slopes, I've met and skied with some fantastic people.  When the bus program resumed for the season in mid-January, I happily reunited with my "men in red" ski posse.

To another great ski season!

Per tradition, Glen brought out his flask of cinnamon whiskey and we all had a toast before hitting the lifts.

Glen passes pat the flask to Pat

Pat, our power-skier eager to rack up the runs, was already on the slopes and missed our toast.  So when we finally caught up, Glen made sure he was included.

Chairlift selfie attempt

The running joke is you have to wear a red jacket if you want to ski with me.  (I really gotta work on my chairlift selfies.....)

What a motley crew!

And what's this?  Rounding a corner I discovered our ski area's legendary bra tree is back!  Not only was it adorned with new female undergarments, someone had added a pair of men's tighty whiteys. (Equal gender representation, right?)  My group may or may not have possessed knowledge of recent sacrifices made to said hallowed tree......(what happens on the bus, stays on the bus!)

The bra tree is back!

I've sure missed my midweek ski buddies.  We laugh, joke, share nips of adult beverages, and rip down snowy slopes.  I'm so glad ski bus Thursdays are back for the season.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Might As Well Ski Anyway....

So far this winter has been a huge disappointment.  Snow has been scarce in the Cascades.  For a die-hard skier like me, the drier-than-usual months of December and January have been nothing but bad news.

Blue sky and white snow

By mid-January, Mt Hood Meadows, my local ski hill, was reporting a scant 36" base.  Usually logging at least 8-10 ski days by then, my season pass had only been used twice.  It's hard to get pumped for skiing when you know it's gonna be an icy, rock-dodging experience.

Sunglasses weather!

However my friends Kim and Hollie wanted to check things out one mid-January Sunday, so I decided to join them.  The weather was supposed to be a sunny and warm, so at least we wouldn't be freezing our butts off.  What the heck, I thought, might as well go skiing.

The mountain is busy

I spent the first part of the day on the bunny slope, getting Hollie's confidence back.  Hollie only started skiing two years ago, and although she's doing great, it's hard for her to leave the security of the beginner area.  But today Kim and I decided it was time to try a more difficult run.  Sometimes folks just need a little push. 

Distant Cascade peaks

So we took Hollie up to the top of the Vista chairlift.  Although the trails here are also green (beginner) runs, they're all much longer than anything on the bunny hill. 

Kim giving Hollie instruction

Thus began a long, slow descent back to the lodge.  We made frequent stops so Hollie could rest.  Since Hollie is still a slow skier, Kim and I followed close behind, trying to thwart any fast snow-rider that might get too close (kind of like bodyguards!).  While resting on the side of a slope, we did witness one collision between a man and woman.  Although scary, luckily neither person was hurt.

Hollie is a trooper!

Hollie was a trooper!  Even when she fell (which wasn't often) she calmly picked herself up - no tears or swearing.  She was making some great turns, and staying in control.  The final slope to the lodge was a slightly steeper pitch.  Kim and I were worried about Hollie making it in one piece, but she pointed her skis straight downhill and went for it!  And didn't fall once.  Yahoo!

Traverse to Outer Limits (see all the rocks?)

After the long trip down from Vista, Hollie was tuckered out.  She and Kim went inside for lunch.  But I wasn't ready for a break yet.  Bright morning sunlight had softened the snow to a wonderful consistency.  Time to rip it up!

Smilin' ski buddies

And that's exactly what I did.  Cascade, the highest lift on the mountain, was turning and I made endless laps down it's wide-open slopes.  When finished with her lunch, Kim joined me in the fun.

Kim in action

We traveled all over the resort - finding lots of lovely soft snow stashes.  Even the moguls were fun to slide over.  I had such a good time, I nearly forgot about the skimpy snowpack (that is, until I accidentally slid over a few hidden rocks.....good thing I had my "rock skis")

Cool cloud over Mt Hood

It turned out to be a great day of skiing after all.  I'd lowered my expectations so much that it was a happy surprise to encounter sunny, blue skies and totally carveable snow.

The moral of my story?  Even if the snow is less than stellar, you might as well ski anyway.  After all, a bad day skiing is still better than the best day at work!  :)